Charles Simic, a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize and wowed critics and readers with his unique style of lyricism, economy, tragic insight, and jarring humor, died at age 84.
Dan Halpern, the executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf, said Monday that Simic, the US poet laureate from 2007 to 2008, had died. He didn’t give any more information right away.
Who Is Charles Simic?
Many people thought Simic was one of the best and most unique poets of his time, even though he didn’t start writing in English until he was well into his 20s. He wrote dozens of books. Growing up in war-torn Yugoslavia gave him a dark but funny view of the world, which led him to say, “The world is old. It has always been old.” His poems were usually short and to the point, with sudden and sometimes shocking changes in mood and imagery, as if he was trying to show how cruel and random life could be.
His most famous books were The World Doesn’t End, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. Walking the Black Cat, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996, Unending Blues, and collections like The Lunatic and Scribbled in the Dark, which came out more recently. In 2005, he won the Griffin Poetry Prize. The judges called him “a magician, a conjuror” and said he was the master of “a disarming, deadpan precision that should never be mistaken for simplicity.” He was fluent in French, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, and Slovenian and translated other poets’ works from these languages.
Charles Simic’s Personal Life
Simic married fashion designer Helene Dubin in 1964 and had two children together. In 1971, he became an American citizen. Two years later, he joined the University of New Hampshire’s faculty, where he stayed for many years.
What the Grass Says, his first book, came out in 1967. He then wrote Somewhere Among Us a Stone Is Taking Notes and Dismantling the Silence. Soon, he was writing about one book a year on average. In a 1978 review in the New York Times, it was said that he had the ability to show “a complex of perceptions and feelings” in just a few lines.
“Charles Simic” by Charles Simic, RIP pic.twitter.com/sWq2FQbvZW
— Christopher DeWeese (@_ChrisDeWeese) January 9, 2023
Simic told Granta in 2013 that of everything people have said about poetry, the saying “less is more” has made the most significant and lasting impression on him. “In my life, I’ve written a lot of short poems, but “written” isn’t the right word for how they came to be. Since you can’t just sit down and write an eight-line poem that’s big for its size, these poems are made up of words and images that have been floating around in my head for a long time.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.